During the afternoon some canoes came off in which were a number of pygmies, but they made no attempt to come aboard of us, remaining, as they thought, at a safe distance from the ship. In order to convince them of the error of this, however, and to punish them for their treachery of the morning, Hartog ordered our brass bow-chaser to be loaded with grape, and fired amongst them, which caused great consternation, and sent them back to their woods howling in terror, taking their dead and wounded with them.
Hartog was determined to explore the range of mountains which we could see not far distant from the coast, in order to ascertain the truth, or otherwise, of the existence of rubies in the valleys as set forth in Marco Polo’s account of this country. Although we had carefully looked for these gems among the ornaments worn by the pygmies, we had not seen any, from which we concluded that the men spoken of by Polo as having procured the rubies must have been of a different race, or possibly his own sailors. Toward evening we observed a large bird in the sky, which Hartog, with the aid of his spy-glass, pronounced to be a white eagle.
THE VALLEY OF SERPENTS
We now equipped an expedition to explore the Ruby Mountains, of which I was appointed leader. Hartog wished to come with us, but I persuaded him that his place was on board our ship, which, remembering how the Spaniards had, on a former occasion, pirated the vessel, he could not deny.
“You are right, Peter,” he said, when we had argued the matter. “We cannot both go, and, since I am captain of the ‘Golden Seahorse’, I clearly perceive my duty is to stand by her through fair and foul.”
The matter being thus concluded, I took command of the party for the shore. In the forenoon we rowed for the beach in two pinnaces, well manned and armed. In all the places where we had landed we had treated the blacks with kindness, offering them pieces of iron, strings of beads, and pieces of cloth, hoping by these means to win their friendship, and to be allowed to explore the country; but, in spite of our friendly overtures, the blacks received us everywhere as enemies, and nowhere more so than in this land of pygmies and giants. We therefore determined to waste no more time in making useless efforts for peace, but to meet force with force. Twelve men, well armed, we considered to be a match for all the savages we were likely to encounter during a day’s march inland.
We had brought with us some coils of stout rope in order to assist us in descending from the mountain heights into the valleys below, for I did not place much reliance upon the fable of the eagles and the pieces of fresh meat as a means to procure the rubies which it was said were washed down by torrential rains at certain seasons. If rubies were to be obtained, I argued, it must be by a more practical method than that employed by Marco Polo’s men. Besides, we had no fresh meat with which to give Polo’s experiment a trial.